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Skiers and snow boarders at the Glenshee Ski Resort in the Cairngorms National Park ©Lorne Gill. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

Social and economic benefits of nature

The natural environment is one of Scotland’s greatest assets, making a major contribution to economic growth and quality of life.

Nature is essential for human life. Nature provides us with water, clean air and food, and raw materials for medicines, industry and buildings. Our crops rely on insect pollination and the complex biological processes that create soil. Enjoying parks, landscapes and wildlife improves our health and well-being.

If we’re to continue to reap these economic and social rewards, it’s vital that we look after the natural environment as an investment for the future.

Discover the many ways in which our environment is valued in the publications below, or find out about some of our industries reliant on nature.

Natural Capital

Natural capital is a term for the habitats and ecosystems that provide social, environmental and economic benefits to humans. Scotland has a wide range of these habitats and ecosystems - each of which makes a unique contribution to the wellbeing of those who live and work in Scotland.

Ecosystem services

All of the benefits we get from nature, which are sometimes known as ecosystem services, depend on a healthy environment.

The Natural Capital Asset Index analyses the quality and quantity of terrestrial habitats, according to their potential to deliver ecosystem services now and in the future.

Economic impact

The natural environment is one of Scotland's greatest assets. It attracts businesses and individuals to live and work in Scotland. 

Sustainable use of our environment contributes over £17 billion a year to Scotland's economy.

Our Valuing our Environment report reveals the economic value of the environment. Its sustainable use supports 11% of Scotland’s total economic output – worth £17.2 billion a year – and one in seven full-time jobs.

The full research report below underpins the key information in the above publication.

Read The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Natural Environment: SNH Commissioned Report No. 304

Public opinion

Our 2011 survey reveals the Scottish public’s strong affection for our native wildlife and landscapes. It also shows clear public support for the continued protection of these natural assets: What the Scottish public value about the natural heritage.

Additional analysis shows what aspects of nature people think are important in the different regions of Scotland: Regional environmental preferences.

You can also view the datasets for the survey fieldwork: Public Attitudes datasets.

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